How to Make Your Video Thumbnail a Real Click Magnet
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The Ultimate Guide to Making Clickable Video Thumbnails

video thumbnail

With 78% of people enjoying video content weekly and 55% daily, it should be no surprise that video has come to the forefront of the online world. Combine that with the fact that YouTube has over 2 billion active viewers, and it becomes clear that video content is bigger than ever. But regardless of whether you’re a video marketing specialist or an independent content creator looking to make it big on YouTube, making content will be the same. And a crucial part of that process will be choosing an appropriate video thumbnail!

People enjoy different styles of videos, so there is a place in the online video world for everyone. But regardless of your video needs or the direction you take your content, you will need a video thumbnail that drives clicks! 

Yes, you can just let your video player auto-generate a thumbnail for you by taking a random frame from your video, but that is less than optimal. Why? Because 90% of best-performing videos have custom thumbnails, according to YouTube

So if you want your videos to get more views, making an enticing thumbnail is the easiest way to do it, and that’s why we’re here! Let us teach you everything you need to know about making a killer video thumbnail. Here’s what you will learn in this article:

Without further delay, let’s jump right into it!

What Is a Video Thumbnail

A video thumbnail is an image or a short video that appears over your content before a user even clicks on it. Essentially, a video thumbnail is your poster child; it is something that should represent the very essence of your content and compel the users to want to consume it. 

If you’ve ever seen movie posters or billboard advertisements, you should have a decent idea of what you should aim for when creating a thumbnail. Both of these serve the same purpose — enticing viewers to action.

With that in mind, you can imagine why a random frame from your video won’t be a compelling thumbnail. Leaving it up to the algorithm to set your thumbnail can severely impact your video’s performance. So don’t do it!

Benefits of a Custom Video Thumbnail

There are many benefits of custom thumbnails, but we’ll cover the most notable ones:

  • Thumbnails help drive clicks — Using a well-crafted video thumbnail can increase your videos’ clickthrough rates significantly.
  • They help users understand the topic of your video — They are like a movie trailer; you can get a taste of what’s to come before you even start watching the video. As you can probably imagine, that can be quite a potent strategy for increasing your viewership.
  • Custom thumbnails boost your brand awareness — Many creators are easily recognizable by their thumbnail style. And if you’re a video marketer, you can always brand your thumbnails with your brand’s logo. That way, your audience will immediately know it’s you!
  • Thumbnails can help with your YouTube rankingsVideo SEO is a thing! And well-thought-out thumbnails can help your video get exposure on YouTube and attract viewers. Having an optimized preview image can earn you bonus points with the video platform’s algorithm. That can make your videos appear on YouTube’s recommendations more often. And since 70% of YouTube’s videos are watched through the recommendations algorithm, you’d be wise to cater to it.

As you can see, you have plenty to lose by not using a custom video thumbnail. However, you can’t just slap on any photo on your video and call it a day. There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want your thumbnail to be successful.

The Keys Behind a Successful Video Thumbnail

If you want to make a compelling thumbnail that will inspire clicks, there are a few key practices to follow. Here is the recipe for a successful video thumbnail:

A High-Quality, Polished Image

Getting just any picture for your thumbnail won’t cut it; you must pay attention to the image quality. “But if the thumbnail is going to be tiny anyway, why should I bother finding an HD photo?” you may ask. The answer is simple — even if the users don’t see it, the search engine will.

Also, paying attention to the photo’s colors, contrast, and brightness is imperative. Ensure the lighting in the image is appropriate, that the background is clear and light, and that you apply the rule of thirds during the editing process when positioning key objects in the thumbnail. 

Thumbnail Text

Most killer thumbnails include text! However, using text is a slippery slope. Namely, you have to be careful about what you write and not to overdo it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when using text in your video thumbnails:

  • Make sure your text is visible, bolded, and in all caps.
  • Use vivid colors to emphasize your text.
  • Do not use sensationalist phrases and clickbait.
  • Do not write more than a few words.
  • Consider adding text to less prominent areas of your thumbnail, such as the corners.

Here’s an excellent example of the appropriate use of text in a video thumbnail:

As you can see, the text is visible, it does not obstruct the central object of the image, it adequately describes the video’s contents, and it stands out from the background. So as long as you stick to the guidelines above, you should have no problem implementing text incorrectly.

Adequate Image Size

You should probably be aware by now that various social media platforms have different image-size guidelines. The same applies to YouTube thumbnails! Here are YouTube’s image size specifications:

Resolution1280×720 (minimum 640-pixel width)
Supported Image Formats.JPG, .GIF, .PNG, and .BMP
File Size< 2 MB
Aspect Ratio16:9

Adhering to these guidelines will put you in an advantage over your competition in the eyes of YouTube’s algorithm. Oh, and if you’re using a video platform other than YouTube, you will have to check its image guidelines yourself as they might differ.


Another key aspect of a successful video thumbnail is branding. As we’ve already mentioned, individual creators can sometimes be easily recognized solely from their thumbnail style. However, the easiest way to make your videos evoke your brand’s image is by including your logo or brand name! Here’s an example of a record company branding their label’s music videos:

The logo is perfectly tucked away in the corner of the video preview while remaining visible. Here’s another example, this time from the Insider

This time, we have a different type of video, but the branding is still crystal clear. So what can we take from these examples?

  • Make your logo prominent but not obtrusive.
  • Placing your branding in a corner is always a safe bet.
  • Don’t use contrasting colors for branding as it might distract the users from the rest of the thumbnail.
  • Don’t overdo it!

If you consider these points whenever uploading thumbnails with your logo on them, you’ll be on a surefire road to success!


Last but not least, using emotions in your thumbnails is one of the easiest ways to attract clicks. But what do we mean by that? Let’s take a look at an example:

People crying might be an extreme example, but any kind of shock, surprise, astonishment, happiness, or similar work wonders. However, be extremely careful not to abuse this! If you use emotions in your thumbnails to mislead your viewers or overdramatize the contents of your video, you will only end up annoying your viewers and making them leave quickly.

How to Make a Custom Video Thumbnail

When it comes to creating thumbnails themselves, the best way to approach the process would be by using a video thumbnail maker. These are graphic design programs or tools that you can use to put together an intuitive thumbnail image. There are many video thumbnail makers out there, but here are a few suggestions for you:

  • Canva — This tool is a free online graphic design tool you can use to create astounding visuals. It is one of the best choices for YouTube creators looking to make thumbnails for their videos.
  • Fotojet — This tool is focused on thumbnail creation; hence, it offers plenty of useful thumbnail templates. It has plenty of advanced options you can use to polish your thumbnails and is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a thumbnail-focused designer tool.
  • Snappa — This tool is another general one like Canva. However, Snappa is much better for non-professional designers as its UI is more user-friendly and is easier to use overall.
  • Adobe Spark — Although Adobe Spark is a multipurpose tool, it does have a YouTube thumbnail category, which makes creating YouTube thumbnails a walk in the park. Although this tool lacks some advanced customization options, it is still a fantastic choice for a free tool.
  • Fotor — This tool is perfect for thumbnail creation as it offers plenty of different themes and intuitive photo editing tools. It also has a beginner-friendly UI, which makes it ideal for beginners. Overall, Fotor is an all-around reliable tool.

Regardless of whether you’re creating a thumbnail for a promotional video for your marketing campaign or are making an explainer video to help your audience, using one of these video thumbnail makers will be an excellent choice.

Useful Video Thumbnail Tips

Before we leave you to your own devices, we wanted to give you several more tips for creating more compelling thumbnails. So before you upload your video, double-check your thumbnail according to these tips.

Don’t Use Clickbait

We can never emphasize this enough — using clickbait in your thumbnails can severely irritate your audience. And if your viewers get annoyed, they may never return! So trust us when we say — clickbaiting your thumbnails is not worth it. It might show positive results in the short-term, but this strategy is not sustainable and will negatively affect your viewership in the long run. This practice even made it to our list of the worst YouTube trends, so that should tell you plenty!

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment With Animation

If you’re creating videos on a platform that allows for animated thumbnails, go for it! Using dynamic imagery is much more alluring than even the best of static thumbnails, so you’d be wise to take advantage of that!

Emojis Are Your Friends

Emojis in thumbnails are all the rage nowadays, so you should use that! There are a few things to keep in mind, though, when incorporating them:

  • Make sure they fit the theme or the emotional tone of your video.
  • Don’t make them too big.
  • Don’t use too many.
  • Make them subtle and less prominent than the central object of the thumbnail.

You should keep these things in mind so that you don’t accidentally come off as clickbaity or overly dramatic. That could just create the opposite effect and annoy your viewers.

Go Inspire Clicks With Your Killer Thumbnails!

Now that you’re equipped with all the know-how you need to create some incredible thumbnails, you’d better get to it! And always remember — patience and practice makes perfect. You might not get it right the first few times, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. We sure it won’t take long before you become a thumbnail generating machine!

Best of luck to you, and until next time!